My chance entry to the disability sector through a student project changed my life for better and made me a better human being as I learned to be more positive and to “Count the ability and not the disability”
In DA-IICT, we had introduced design thinking in the second semester of BTech(ICT) program. This was followed by an internship in summer(later changed to winter) in a rural area and a Zero Credit Design project in the second year. Idea was to let them explore some area of societal benefit for a full year without any pressure of grades and timeline.
Two students, Pallavi and Ramya(both from Hyderabad) approached me(most likely in 2007) to work with me on design project with an interest in helping persons with visual impairment. They visited Blind People’s Association in Ahmedabad to get an idea of various needs. Later in summer vacation, they came across news about a girl, Bhawana from Chennai, who had passed class 10th. Normally this does not make news but Bhawana was not in a position to move or talk. She did not have fine finger movement just a coarse movement of hands. In spite of these conditions, her passing of 10th was worthy of news. Pallavi and Ramya visited her in Chennai to understand how she studies and carries out other functions.
This is story of Charu Khandal, Lead Animator of Shahrukh Khan’s movie Ra-One, who met with a terrible accident. I tried to help her through assistive technology and as she was about to get back to Bollywood, we lost her!
Facebook memory showed up a post of mine from Jan 17, 2017 where I had shared a sad news about shocking demise of Charu Khandal – Ra-One movie animator. I felt compelled to narrate her story as I know it.
Devanshi Upadhyay was just eight months old when she had an epileptic fit. Scared, Vinay and Reshma rushed their daughter to the doctors only to find that she would struggle with spastic dystonic quadriplegic cerebral palsy all her life. Their child was trapped in her body without the ability to communicate her needs. They learnt to read her eyes for clues but her lack of interaction with the outside world had them worried.
Till, they read an article in Mirror about the communication system developed by Prabhat Ranjan, professor at Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar. Ranjan had recently bagged a national award for his communication system for quadriplegics and paraplegics.
The National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) announced its Mphasis Universal Design Awards last week, naming Prabhat Ranjan as an awardee.
“The award will help bring the benefit of this technology to many more people. Even the medical community in India does not know about its possibilities yet,” said Ranjan, a professor at Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gujarat.